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Burlingame Kids Make Beautiful Music

The Burlingame School District (“BSD”) music program offers music education from transitional kindergarten through 8th grade. Every child receives weekly general music or choral instruction through fifth grade while 4th and 5th graders can elect to participate in instrumental music instruction. Burlingame Intermediate School (“BIS”) offers a variety of elective choral and instrumental music classes at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels as well as a musical theater program. BCE is essential to the survival and growth of these programs.

Read on to discover why your kids need music more than you think.

–Written by Jay Larlarb and Elisa Lee

How Burlingame Does Music

When your child mentions music or choir or band in school, do you ever wonder exactly why or how much music education they are getting? The BSD music program is carefully made up of 5.3 full-time credentialed music teachers who teach over 1200 students from TK-5th grade in weekly music instruction. These teachers also teach over 400 students at BIS that are now enrolled in music elective classes; approximately double the amount from five years ago. The music teachers of the BSD music curriculum are experienced and passionate music advocates who describe music as a “universal language that has been shown to help students academically and socially regardless of the field or profession they may choose beyond high school.”

Your child benefits from a core music curriculum that has been comprehensively designed from a transitional kindergarten foundation to culminate, for those who choose, into advanced choral or instrumental instruction at BIS. All BSD students from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade receive 25-30 minutes of music or choir every week. In addition, 4th grade and 5th grade students can also elect to participate in band and instrumental lessons. Band meets once a week before school begins for 50-55 minutes and instrumental lessons are once a week for 25-30 minutes. All BSD elementary school students perform in at least 1 musical showcase each year.

Once at BIS, the music program is no longer mandatory but elective and includes diverse offerings like several levels of concert band, jazz band and choir. BIS students are given musical instruction for 5+ hours per week, with a minimum of 2 performance concerts each year.   Additionally, musical electives classes offer highly beneficial travel opportunities to compete and learn outside of Burlingame. There is also a robust musical theater program that performs one show a school year.

Can Music Make You Smarter?

The BSD has committed to this high level of music education because studies have shown that the benefits of learning music for children can go far beyond having a musical skill. In kindergarten through fifth grade, all BSD kids are introduced to the auditory, visual and kinesthetic aspects of music. Studies have shown that singing and music education at an early age has benefits that extend far beyond the music itself. A new study conducted in 2016 by the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute highlights the importance of music in the early grades because it increases skills needed for school readiness. By developing an internal steady beat or pulse through music instruction, children increase their language development and overall literacy.

For young children, music can also have a profound effect on reading. A study by Sheila Douglas and Peter Willats in the Journal of Research in Reading suggests that there may be a relationship between musical ability and reading ability and more specifically that learning music through singing leads to better reading skills. And believe it or not, music may even increase your IQ. A study by Toronto researcher Dr. Glenn Schellenberg showed that children who received music lessons had increases of IQ almost 3 points higher than children in a control group with no music lessons.

Since BSD has one of the area’s highest music education participation rates with over 75% of 4th and 5th grade students taking advantage of elective instrumental music instruction and band, our elementary students are getting smarter by the minute!

Music Is Not Just For Little Kids

In a crowded auditorium on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, the din of quiet conversation turns suddenly into a collective hush. Mr. Simon, the BIS Jazz Band leader, snaps his fingers in time, while every member of the BIS Jazz Band watches intently. He whispers “One, two, one – two – three – four.” Finally, the last beat of the count-in. The band starts. The sound is amazing and the quality is professional. The parents in the room swell with pride. The kids, deep in concentration, are in the moment, experiencing the music, together as one.

This moment occurred for BIS Advanced Jazz students at the Reno Jazz Festival in April 2017. All of the BIS participants in this competition had music and choral instruction through 5th grade and most took the elective band and instrumental options in 4th and 5th grades. At BIS they were then selected for the highly sought after Advanced Jazz elective. We can see how the cumulative effect of learning music from kindergarten through 5th grade comes to fruition for BIS students who choose to do jazz band, concert band, choir or the school musicals but the benefits continue for beyond just music. Strangely, they may even help with math! A 1999 UCLA study by James Catterall followed more than 25,000 American secondary school students and concluded that students with consistent high levels of involvement in instrumental music over the middle and high school years showed significantly higher levels of math proficiency. The same study showed an array of higher competencies from students involved with music that carries into scholastic achievement in non –music high school classes.

But the benefits for all kids, even those who don’t continue with music after elementary school, continue whether it is cognitively, socially or creatively. Music in the district lifts all kids. Through gradual and steady music learning, week by week and year by year, Burlingame students are building on cumulative learning that crescendos to peak academic success.

So How Else Does Music Help My Kids?

The Burlingame music team has long believed that what they teach helps prepare students for the real world far beyond learning how to sing or play a song. By participating in chorus or band, students learn the value of community and teach important skills like critical thinking and team building. From a social aspect, participation in these programs teaches problem solving, empathy and how to accept learning differences. And studies backup these beliefs.

A 2013 German study by Adrian Hille and Jurgen Schupp found that adolescents who learned a musical instrument between the ages 8 and 17 score more than one fourth of a standard deviation above other children in a cognitive skills test. These positive effects on cognitive skills make sense when you realize how music and speech are related. Although they are distinct in purpose, they share many common elements in terms of auditory and cognitive processing. At the auditory level, music and speech both use pitch and timing to convey information and at the cognitive level, the brain uses the same memory and attention skills for both music and speech.

How is Burlingame Music Ahead of the Curve?

Did you know that not every Bay Area elementary school offers general music for TK-5 grades or a choir program at every elementary site? And not every middle school has jazz band electives or a robust musical theater program. Unlike Burlingame, neighboring school districts to Burlingame do not have instrumental programs until 5th or 6th grade.

During the economic downturn, the BSD struggled to keep the “nuts and bolts” of its music program in place while neighboring districts, including Millbrae, San Bruno and South San Francisco were unable to do so. Because of their efforts to keep the program alive during every economic downturn, BSD has one of the longest, continually running music programs in the state of California.

How does the BSD continue to do this? The BSD music program is 95% funded by BCE, meaning that the generosity and hard work of the parents who support BCE are what keep our music program thriving. Remember that music education builds from kindergarten on so budget cuts that take place years before will show the consequences by middle school. Because BCE was able to help the BSD keep the basics of their program in place through the lean times, now entire classes of children are moving through upper elementary and middle school with solid music exposure.

Parents, Let’s Make Some Music

Demand for music and drama offerings for BSD students is growing. Enrollment is increasing for the elective music offerings in 4th and 5th grades and at BIS. Parents of both elementary and BIS students are hoping for offerings in schools like the return of an orchestral strings ensemble, strings instruction, and more band and choral elective offerings at BIS.

But maintaining even the “nuts and bolts” of a music program requires a constant budget to address staffing, classroom space, maintenance and replacement of equipment, and curriculum material. And maintaining the program of an ever increasing student body means the budget never stays still. Of course, this all requires a prioritization of money and commitment.

“Music is a priority for our district because the community provides unwavering support for it. This support is evidenced by the overwhelming enrollment numbers in both band and choir at the elementary and middle school levels, as well as the enthusiasm from parents and the community. Part of the reason BCE has so many gracious donors is due to the community’s support for the arts,” says the Burlingame music team.

The BSD music program gets 95% of its funding from BCE. With private music lessons at a cost of $30-50 a week, many students in our community would never have the opportunity to try and play an instrument, be in a band or sing in a choir without the exposure from school. “I guess we wonder what wonderfully talented BSD student singer or instrumentalist would never be given the opportunity to reach their potential in the performing arts if music ceased in BSD. If one interviews most of the great performing artists of the past several decades they quickly realize that most got their start in their school’s [arts and music] programs and classes,” says the Burlingame music team.

Burlingame parents rise to the expectations we set for our students and we have consistently shown that music is a value we understand. Please continue to support BCE and spread the benefits of music to all the children of our community.




Measure M – Excellent Burlingame Schools

Burlingame School District provides an exceptional education for our students. But many school facilities are outdated and are in serious need of repair.

Measure M would provide dedicated, locally controlled funding to ensure that our students have the safe, modern classrooms they need to reach their full potential. The $56 million bond will be used to begin work on the BSD facilities master plan.  The BCE board has endorsed Measure M as it represents a key component that impacts our children’s education. While BCE’s grant helps fund many essential programs and staff, Measure M will fund essential repairs and upgrades to school facilities.

Measure M will fund the following:

  • Repairs, maintenance and upgrades to classrooms.
  • Access for students with disabilities.
  • Removal of lead and asbestos.
  • Fixing leaking roofs.
  • Updates to bring facilities in compliance with current earthquake, fire and safety codes.
  • Single point of entry gates at all schools.
  • Upgrades to science, technology and engineering labs to meet 21st century standards.

Measure M has also been endorsed by the San Mateo Daily Journal. The campaign to pass Measure M is in full swing and your help is needed.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Thank you for your time, energy and support in spreading the word.



Announcing the 2016-2017 BCE Board

At last week’s meeting, the BCE Board of Directors approved the slate for the 2016-2017 Board of Directors. So it is with distinct pleasure that I present to you the following list:

BCE Board of Directors, 2016-2017:

  • President – Angela Dubovsky (Franklin, BIS)
  • President Elect – Sari McConnell (Roosevelt, BIS)
  • Secretary – Michele Harbin (Washington)
  • Treasurer – Lindsay Wilson (Lincoln)
  • VP Business Development – Quynh Trinh (McKinley, Franklin)
  • VP Events – Fabiola Price (Lincoln)
  • VP Marketing – Jennifer Kulin (McKinley)
  • VP Scholars Circle – Kendra Wehmeyer (Lincoln)
  • VP Site Directors – Linda Shaffer (BIS)
  • BIS Site Director – Malinda Pauly
  • Franklin Site Director – Marni Fligel
  • McKinley Site Director – Hildur Carlen
  • Washington Site Director – Margaret Burke
  • Lincoln Site Director – Katie Herstein
  • Roosevelt Site Director – Kristin Flenniken
  • Hoover Site Director – Carolyn Way

Many thanks again to the nominating committee that represented the entire school community in the board search:

  • Michele Harbin – Chair, BCE Board Secretary
  • Marni Fligel – Franklin
  • Terese Piazza Fuss – Hoover
  • Carolyn & Ken Way – Hoover/Lincoln
  • Cristina Valadez – Lincoln
  • Richard Moran – McKinley
  • Amanda Rogowski – Roosevelt
  • Erica Rishel – Washington
  • Cathy Guglielmi – BIS

We couldn’t be more excited about the year to come!


Angela Dubovsky, BCE President.


BCE Nominating Committee Gearing Up

The BCE Nominating Committee is comprised of representatives from each of the Burlingame schools, and is empowered with the task of filling any vacant BCE board and key advisory board positions for the upcoming school year.

The process begins in February by identifying the positions that will be open (typically only half the board in any given year) and informally interviewing all of the potential candidates from our highly educated and qualified pool of parent volunteers.

Once the slate is filled, candidates are presented to the current BCE board for approval at the annual meeting on April 21, 2016. The new board begins its term at the start of BCE’s fiscal year on July 1st. 

This year’s Nominating Committee members are:

  • Michele Harbin, Chair
  • Marni Fligel, Franklin
  • Terese Piazza Fuss, Hoover
  • Carolyn and Ken Way, Hoover/Lincoln, BIS
  • Cristina Valadez, Lincoln
  • Richard Moran, McKinley
  • Euni Kwon, Roosevelt
  • Erica Rishel, Washington
  • Cathy Guglielmi, BIS
  • Angela Dubovsky, BCE President
Michele Hentrich Harbin, BCE Secretary and Nominating Committee Chair.

Michele Hentrich Harbin, BCE Secretary and Nominating Committee Chair.

Our community is filled with excellent parent volunteers, and we hope you will consider joining either the BCE Board of Directors or the Advisory Board. Come be part of the excitement! For more information, see the call for volunteers or email Michele Hentrich Harbin at

— Michele Hentrich Harbin, BCE Secretary and Chair of the BCE Nominating Committee

About Michele

Michele has a background as a commercial real estate and viticulture lawyer. She has one student at Washington and twins entering kindergarten there next year.


BCE Joins 2015 Silicon Valley Gives Day

Today, Silicon Valley Community Foundation will be raising money for local nonprofits via SVGives, a day of giving that aims to inspire and unite our local community to support philanthropic organizations. If you are planning on giving to BCE this year, donate TODAY to MAXIMIZE YOUR IMPACT!


We are BCE. And We Can Do It!

The 2015 BCE Dinner Dance and Auction was an enormous success! In one night, we contributed over $500,000 (+14% vs. last year) to the BCE grant that will benefit all TK-8th grade children in BSD in the 2015-2016 school year. Our biggest event ever, with 435 guests, raised $330,000+ in 10 minutes in cash donations to Fund-A-Need during the live auction. Thank you to our generous donors who help give BSD children the education they deserve!

To sustain the programs that the BCE grant helped fund this year, we need to meet our financial goal by June 30th. We can do it, but we are not there yet. And what if we raise even more? We can impact professional development, music and art, and social emotional resources for our children.

On Tuesday, May 5th, BCE will be participating in Silicon Valley Gives Day (SVGives) which offers the possibility of matching dollars to participating non-profits. SVGives is a unique opportunity for families who have not yet contributed to this year’s annual campaign to make your BCE donation go even further! And of course, we are always grateful to all for joining in.

Last year, BCE was #1 in fundraising on SVGives Day, raising almost $190,000 in one day. Let’s make BCE #1 again this year!

How to help BCE get matching dollars and prizes on SVGives Day:

Remember, the BCE grant is for our children’s education. Every dollar counts!

-The BCE Board of Directors


Burlingame STEM Fair – Answering the Why

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”
~ Edwin Hubble, American astonomer

Why is the sky blue? Why do plants need sunlight? Why do cars need gas? Why does my cheese have holes in it? Why is candy bad for my teeth?….

From the moment they learn to talk, the “why” questions never end. Sure it’s a bit tiring at times, but how magnificent is the insatiable curiosity? the communication? the creativity? Kids are wired to explore, to take risks, to ask questions, to conjure up crazy ideas.  And that’s the beauty of the science fair – it’s all those wonderful characteristics with a little adult guidance.

“Science fairs make you dream big.”
~ Brennan Brockank, district Science coach


Washington 4th Grader, Danny Conway, and his Science Fair project

While some Burlingame schools have had their own science fair traditions, Burlingame school district has never had a district-level event. This year, Brennan Brockbank, the district’s Science coach, has taken the initiative to create such an event, the new District STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Fair. The goals of this annual event are to bring 21st Century Skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity) into real practice and to spur interest in STEM throughout the district. 

Students throughout the district were invited to register and submit an abstract of their project. The district event was open to grade 4-8 students across all six district schools. The projects are completely student led and fall into one of 8 categories (Chemistry, Engineering, Physics, Technology, Engineering, Math, Biology, Behavior Science). In its first year, the Burlingame STEM Fair comprises participants from all the six schools (5 elementary, 1 middle), 50+ projects, and over 100 participating students.

“The STEM fair is the perfect example of why I love Burlingame schools so much–kids are encouraged to take chances, have fun and become independent learners who are passionate about science. With kids in K, 2nd and 4th grades, I got to watch the scientific process first-hand and share in their delight for learning. This is the reason why we live in a town like Burlingame–great teachers, great schools and great opportunities for kids to thrive.”
~ Eileen Stanley Conway, Washington parent

Science Fair with Mr. Brockbank

Washington Science Fair with Mr. Brockbank

Each of the teams submitted their online abstracts and physical projects in advance and will be interviewed by the judges Monday evening. “The STEM fair is a rich opportunity to bring all the key skills together and to experience the process of practicing and preparing for the judge’s interview” says Mr. Brockbank. The top projects in each grade/category will move on to the San Mateo County STEM Fair, for a maximum 32 projects (4 grades x 8 categories).

Science ProjectWhile Burlingame has not had a district-level science fair in the past, our community has seen success at a national level. Last year, 8th grader at BIS (now at BHS), Adam Noworolski, created a Stove Alert!, a safety device to help older people with hearing loss hear high frequency stove timers. For this project, Adam Noworolski was one of the winners at the San Mateo STEM Fair and was nominated to be one of 2014 National Broadcom Masters for STEM Rising Stars.

To infinity and beyond! Why not?

Monday, February 9, 2015
7:00pm – 7:30pm
BIS library


Music Concerts: Oh, the Benefits

Our school music concerts are among my most favorite events. I’m enchanted by the heart, the pride and the ‘we’re-all-in-this-together-as-parents’ feeling that overwhelms me in the audience…and the talent too. After homework is checked and lunch is packed, we parents have the pleasure of listening to our children perform just for us. Think of how hard our children have worked to get to this night, just to make us proud and make us smile.

We’re all in this together.

Loads of research recently in the Wall Street Journal prove the academic benefits of having a robust music program like ours in the Burlingame School District. We BCE supporters are doing an exceptional job as parents by helping fund our children’s K-8 music education. No wonder our cheeks hurt from grinning so much in the audience.

It’s a wonderful time of year to make your donation to the Annual Campaign.

-Sari McConnell, BCE VP of Marketing, BOD


#GivingTuesday: Give an Excellent Public School Education


Today is #GivingTuesday, a national day that celebrates blocal philanthropy at this time of year. BCE celebrates the generosity of the parents, teachers and administrators who give so much to our schools throughout the year. Help us honor you and our amazing community and participate in the BCE Apple Toss Challenge today!

And while you’re at it, we hope #GivingTuesday also inspires you to make your donation or make your pledge to the BCE Annual Campaign today.  Your financial commitment now is important so that our school district can plan and staff educational programs made possible by your generous donation. And your donation will qualify for a tax deduction in 2014!